The first reviews are in for ‘The Shape of Water’, and they’re unanimously full of praise for the romantic fantasy, starring Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon and Richard Jenkins.
The film debuted at Venice Film Festival this morning (August 31) and Deadline report that it was met with: “sustained applause (and a fair amount of tears) as the lights rose in the Sala Darsena earlier today”.
They reveal that the film’s press conference was delayed because: “reporters wouldn’t stop hooting and hollering as the filmmaker and his cast took their spots on the dais”.
The general consensus is that del Toro’s latest work is a heartwarming and welcome escape from the horrors of the current world, while also shining a light on the flaws of humanity.
The plot centres around Elisa (Hawkins), a lonely, mute woman who finds herself working as a cleaner at a hidden, top secret government laboratory. She stumbles upon a secret experiment involving a mysterious creature, who she befriends.
“It’s a film that makes you feel a lot, but overridingly you feel lucky – lucky to be watching it, lucky that something so sincerely sweet, sorrowfully scary and surpassingly strange can exist in this un-wonderful world,” writes Jessica Kiang at The Playlist.
Guy Lodge at Variety praises del Toro for being on “peak form” and Hawkins for her “extraordinary” ability, while describing the film as: “A ravishing, eccentric auteur’s imagining, spilling artistry, empathy and sensuality from every open pore, it also offers more straight-up movie for your money than just about any Hollywood studio offering this year.”
More praise is heaped on Sally Hawkins by The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney, who describes her performance as “exquisite”, conveying “both delicacy and strength”.
He calls the film an “emotionally ravishing fantasy that should find a welcome embrace from audiences starved for imaginative escape”.
“Del Toro and co-writer Vanessa Taylor (‘Divergent’) seamlessly weave in points about societal intolerance toward otherness that pertain no less to a nonhuman discovery than to gay or black Americans in the early ’60s,” Formo continues.
“There also are amusing digs at a consumer culture in which status and success increasingly were being defined by purchasing power, while old-fashioned standards of decency were fast receding.”
“The bond between woman and creature is formed with the basis of rudimentary communication and it’s paralleled with the difficulty in communicating love via words by everyone else in the film,” says Collider‘s Brian Formo.
“‘The Shape of Water’ not only entertains as a sumptuous fairytale, but it reinforces a faith in humanity set in a time where tolerance of other races, nationalities, and non-‘family values’ love was volatile. And it’s percolating back to the surface again.”
The film currently has a rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.
‘The Shape of Water’ hits cinemas in the UK on September 19.